In 2016, New Castle mother Monique Brown found herself with a four-month-old baby and miscarrying. She turned to counselor Cynthia Guy from Delaware’s Healthy Women, Healthy Babies program. “Cynthia helped me navigate through the grief and deal with the overwhelming feeling of being a new mom,” Brown says. “Since then, she has helped me stay on top of my physical health, and never overlooked the needs of my mental health, too.”
Healthy Women, Healthy Babies is part of the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium (DHMIC), which was established in 2005 by then-Governor Ruth Ann Minner. It’s charged with providing optimal health for women and addressing Delaware’s infant mortality rate, which is among the highest in the United States. In Delaware, Black babies are 2.9 times more likely to die during infancy than white babies, and the maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is three to four times greater than it is for white mothers. Additionally, less than one in five women of reproductive age are screened for depression.
In 2008, DHMIC introduced the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies program to provide optimal health for women before, during and after pregnancy. In 2019, Healthy Women, Healthy Babies 2.0 launched to address the increasingly complex social, emotional and medical issues faced by the women of Delaware, envisioning a future in which all women and babies have an equal opportunity to thrive. “DHMIC’s goal is to engage, advocate and educate women while being inclusive and intentional,” Susan Noyes, co-chair of the Delaware Healthy Mother Infant Consortium, says.
DHMIC has seven sites with a whole healthcare approach, providing comprehensive care for women, ranging from medical care to stress and nutrition management and counseling. “This program opens up a conversation that you might not normally have about emotional wellness,” Guy says. “I can see the change in every individual, even when they might not see it in themselves. We’ve had patients that go back to school, purchase homes and pursue careers. We are teaching them about the power of taking control of their own destiny.”
“The data shows that we want to get women into these programs before they get pregnant,” Noyes says. “Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, so the goal is to have these women want to get healthy now, so if and when they get pregnant they have the healthiest outcome for them and their baby.”
Healthy Women, Healthy Babies partners with community organizations, including police, housing and transportation to provide services for its patients. All of these partners have a direct impact on the health of the mothers and provide an infrastructure for the families.
Guy adds, “We have mothers who are seeking food and mothers who have lost their partners due to violence. We offer medical and legal aid as well as parenting help, especially for those who are doing it alone. We know that women’s health is the key to the health of the whole family.”
Since the inception of the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies program in 2008, the infant mortality rate in Delaware has decreased by 22 percent.
“It’s normal to have reservations when it comes to getting help,” Brown says. “But there is power in recognizing that you cannot do everything alone. Having a counselor like Cynthia in the community is crucial. It’s one thing for a person to have professional skills, but to be culturally connected, empathetic, altruistic and caring sweetens the deal. Her resourcefulness provides the community with opportunities that may be unknown. She’s the liaison the community needs to make sure moms are nurtured just as much as babies, which in turn leads to a healthier community.”
For more information about Healthy Women, Healthy Babies and how you can help, click here.